Thursday, November 17, 2005

DOE funding bill reflects emergency water priorities

ROGER SNODGRASS, roger@lamonitor.com, Monitor Assistant Editor

The Senate approved the Energy and Water conference report on Tuesday, authorizing funds for the Department of Energy and national laboratories, on an 84-4 vote.

There were no changes from the report issued by the conference committee where the House and Senate versions were resolved on Nov. 7.

Sen Pete Domenici, R-NM, said in a statement that DOE expenditures in New Mexico could grow to $4.4 billion in fiscal 2006, for Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories and the Waste Isolation Pilot Project. DOE State Tables indicate that $4.1 billion was expended last fiscal year in New Mexico, most in the nation, compared to $3.8 billion in Washington State, the second-highest recipient of DOE funds

"The Energy Department's significant presence in New Mexico makes this bill important. First and foremost, we are giving the president a bill that will allow our labs to carry on without personnel disruptions. At the same time, we have implemented changes that will affect both labs, including moving forward with the pit manufacturing program at Los Alamos," Domenici said.

Of special significance for Los Alamos, the measure contains $142 million, a significant increase for environmental cleanup and eliminates funding for a Modern Pit Facility, while calling for improvement of existing capability at Los Alamos for making the pits, the plutonium triggers for nuclear weapons.

Domenici, chairman of the Senate Energy and Water Appropriation Subcommittee negotiated the bill's final wording with House conferees. He summarized key features in his remarks on the Senate floor preceding the vote, calling special attention to the plight of the nation's water infrastructure.

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